April 08 Newsletter
January 1, 1970In this newsletter you'll find:
1. THE WRITER'S LIFE – Turning 50 or 100
2. THE TIME OF NEW WEATHER – Mass Market Paperback release on April 29
3. FREE STORIES ON THE WEB - from Sean & Tania
4. BIG SKY WRITING WORKSHOPS – Write to the Finish online course starts May 17
5. WRITING RETREAT - with Natalie Goldberg & Sean Murphy, June
6. GOOD NEWS FROM YOU – Congrats to writing students and friends
7. THE YEAR IS YOUNG, WHAT WILL YOU WRITE? Article by Tania and Sean ***And Contest
8. CONTEST winner and tips from last newsletter.
1. THE WRITER'S LIFE I turned 50 last year, and if that doesn't put a fire under a writer, I don't know what does. (Turning 60, 70, and 80 probably does the same trick.) A highlight of the year was writing about someone exactly twice my age - celebrating Zen Master Sasaki Roshi's 100th Birthday in an article called Being True Love for Tricycle Magazine (Fall 07).
100-year-old Sasaki Roshi visited New Mexico to lecture at Bodhi Mandala Zen Center in Jemez Springs. I drove down to hear his public talk, but to my surprise he not only invited me for a private audience afterwards, he then grilled me for half an hour, in his own humorous, fierce, and inimitable fashion, on my understanding of the Zen path. Think you can read the article at this Tricycle link although it might only be available to subscribers.
2. THE TIME OF NEW WEATHER I love the cover for the new mass market paperback edition of The Time of New Weather. It reminds me of Peter Sellers in one of my favorite movies… here's the cover, what do you think? The novel is released April 29 by Bantam Dell.
The story opens when the US government is acquired in a corporate buyout (and you thought it was fiction?) and rebranded 'The America Corporation.' In response, the Wake Up From the American Dream movement unites a feisty cast of characters to prove the power of ordinary (and not so ordinary) citizens to change the world. It's a love story too - imagine Brave New World or 1984 with a dash of humor and a pinch of romance.
All this at a cover price of only $6.99! Order at your local independent book store, they need our support, or if you like to check out books on the web, see B&N. (If you send books to me with an SASE, I'll inscribe them to you or anyone else, and you can save big on your next round of gifts for the readers in your life.
3. STORY TIME FROM SEAN AND TANIA Hear my story reading for SOMOS with musical improv by Mirabal and Kott recorded by Cultural Energy for radio broadcast. It was a blast! I had more fun than is decent, and the audience was great. Scroll down to 2007, and click on Story of The.
(Also hear Tania's interviews with authors for SOMOS Writers on Radio on that webpage.)
Tania's fiction is forthcoming in Saint Ann's Review and in the book anthology
Online Writing: The Best of the First Ten Years (SnowVigate Press). Her story ‘Halva in the Glovebox’, first printed in South Dakota Review, is republished by Cezanne's Carrot – winner of their Editors’ Prize - read it at their website.
4. BIG SKY WRITING WORKSHOPS: With Sean Murphy and Tania Casselle
WRITE TO THE FINISH: Starts May 17, 2008 – all locations
An 8-month, long-distance course for writers working on a book-length project. We work by email and phone, so you can take part wherever you are. Includes a full manuscript critique.
Nobody can write your book for you, but Write to the Finish supports you with craft, community, focus and feedback. Start a first draft, finish a manuscript in progress, tackle revisions/polishing, or work on submission materials for a publisher/agent if you are at that stage and are pursuing publishing. This is our 4th year of this popular course. Spaces limited. email me for full details.
STRAIGHT TO THE HEART: ONLINE SHORT FICTION/FLASH FICTION WORKSHOP
Starts: Summer 2008. Eight weekly sessions over ten weeks.
Short fiction craft lessons, plus workshopping/ personal critiques of your stories, guidance on publishing and more. Maximum 10 in the group, and all communications are by email, so you can take part wherever you are, at the times that suit you. Start date to be confirmed - email me to receive details when announced.
WRITING GROUPS - We offer workshops tailored to the needs of existing writing groups, either in person here in Taos or at your location, or long-distance by email/phone conference. If your group is interested in working with us, email and we'll talk about it.
More on our courses at my workshops page.
5. WILDERNESS PRACTICE RETREAT with Natalie Goldberg and Sean Murphy
June 26th-30th - Las Vegas, New Mexico
A meditative writing retreat, with much time spent in silence, enjoying the wilderness setting of Rose Mountain Retreat Center . We'll alternate between sitting meditation, walking meditation, and writing practice. For beginners through experienced writers. Email for info.
Natalie Goldberg is the author of 11 books including Writing Down the Bones and Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. She's practiced meditation for over 30 years and taught workshops and retreats on writing as a spiritual practice all over the country.
6. GOOD NEWS FROM YOU Lots of great news from writing students and friends. Congrats to:
Rabbi Mike Comins "This is Mike Comins, the rabbi who participated in your workshop at the Murie Center. The workshop worked! I have a book out!" A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways into Judaism (Jewish Lights Publishing)
Victoria Hubbell Won first place in Nonfiction Category and 'Best of Show' Sue Ellen Hudson Excellence In Writing Award at 2007 Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference. This was for an excerpt from the book manuscript Victoria worked on in Write to the Finish 2006, and I'm impressed that she actually did the contest entry thing I always nag people about.
Melissa Hintz Two poems published in Muse, a quarterly magazine from The Lit in Cleveland. Lissa was on Write to the Finish 2007 with a novel that's so original we've no doubt her poetry is equally sparky.
Marie Delgado Travis Won an interview with a New York agent in San Miguel Writers' Conference 2007, for her memoir Exile. Her bilingual poetry book La Ventana/The Window received honorable mention in 2007 International Latino Book Awards. A member of Write to the Finish 2005/06, Marie is more prolific than Joyce Carol Oates. And in two languages.
Laura Flett Writing Toward the Light: A Mother's Grief Journey (AuthorHouse). Laura worked on this beautiful manuscript in Write to the Finish 2005/06. She's the only writer we know who's had haiku published on a billboard.
Sheila Key's 50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR 40S: Living It Up in Life's Second Half was published by New World Library in February. (I needed this book last year!)
Carolyn Hobbs' JOY, No Matter What (Conari Press) has sold 6,000 copies. It’s printed in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and soon in Chinese (2008).
*** Tell us your writing news To share with this extended family of writers and readers, drop us an email and say it's for the newsletter.
7. The Year is Young - What Will You Write?
Article by Tania Casselle and Sean Murphy
Before we know it we’ll be singing Auld Lang Syne to greet 2009 and thinking ‘What did I write this year?’ Four ideas to support your writing life in 2008.
NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME
To contradict the title, there’s never a perfect time to write, or the perfect conditions, or at least not for long. Don’t be seduced by the idea ‘When X happens or Y is over, THEN I’ll write” because Murphy’s Law proves that once X and Y are sorted, Z will trot along to take their place. We have to fit creative work into our messy everyday lives somehow, whether we carve out 10 minutes a day or a weekend a month. (When life crises knock you off the saddle, get back on as soon as possible.) But if you don’t make time for writing, it won’t write itself. Be creative about it and don’t wait for the Right Time.
Taos writer Susan Mihalic said it best in an email last summer: "I applied for a residency at Yaddo & was rejected--no big surprise there--but the rejection had a silver lining. The lesson was clear: I'm going to have to write this book in an imperfect world. If I wait for the perfect residency, the perfect environment, the perfect stretch of uninterrupted time (ha), I'll be waiting forever, and I'll never write this book or any other. As they say, 'perfect' is the enemy of 'done'." Susan's written one/two novel chapters a month since her Lightbulb Moment.
FIRST STEP FIRST
What's the next step for you as a writer? Identify the next step to take, right here, right now. It's more helpful than a vague 'I should write today'. Writers get their undies in a bundle with:
Focus Flummox- "I'll write a story, 3 poems, a memoir, and start a blog." OR "I must finish this piece, so I’ll revise the beginning, no, I'll write the ending, but first I'll research 19th century shoes, or I'll spell check. No, I'll expand that scene with the dog."
Worrying Ahead- "I want to write a book but how will I get it published? I have to write it, revise it, edit it, and I don't know the ending yet, and I don't know any agents, and only famous people get published, and even if it is published, will my mother like it?"
Both lead to overwhelm. So you unplug your computer, vowing to write tomorrow.
Keep it simple. You can only do one thing at a time – trust the future to take care of itself. Identify one thing you can do in the next half hour, the step that's right in front of you. Then do it, one step at a time.
If you want to be a writer but you're not currently writing, then your first step is clear.
Write for ten minutes, now, anything! (Maybe the exercise at the end of this article.)
We've learned from our Write to the Finish courses, and our own experiences, how much more a writer accomplishes when part of a community (it doesn't have to be OURS – find a local or online writing group.) Writing is solitary, so connect with peers for camaraderie, accountability, and practical help on craft/marketing.
Sean says "When I began teaching at UNM Taos, I made friends with two other unpublished writers, Mirabai Starr and Daniel Villasenor, both adjunct faculty like me. We formed an impromptu support group, meeting once a month to read sections of our work, give feedback and moral support, and fantasize about our then seemingly impossible goals of becoming published writers. Oddly enough, we must have started to believe it could really happen. We helped each other act on those dreams, and within two years we had all placed our first books - they came out within a year or so of each other."
Whether you go to conferences, workshops, a local group, cyber groups, or you just connect with writing buddies now and then, create the writing community you need to support your work and to keep reminding yourself: I am a Writer.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Some writers get discouraged for fear they don't have anything to say. Remember that your voice is unique, and that’s what you bring to your writing. Nobody else on the planet has exactly the same experiences, hopes, fears, opinions, relationships, knowledge, imagination and creative ideas. Try this exercise:
* Pick a thing you’re good at or expert on (knitting, opera, Excel spreadsheets, making soup, bird watching, lubing a truck.)
* Pick a memory from your life (your wedding day, a conversation with your mother, the death of a childhood pet, a fight with your sister, getting lost in Mexico.)
* Now, start writing about both things, combine or flip between them.
(Excel spreadsheets/the conversation with your mother. Making soup/your wedding day. Opera/The death of your childhood pet. Lubing a Truck/a fight with your sister.)
Have fun, and see that this is something that only YOU could have written
CONTEST Send me a few sentences/brief para on: One thing you learned about writing/yourself as a writer in the last year, and how you benefited from that discovery.
We'll feature some responses in the next newsletter (they may be edited for space) and one person will win their choice of either a 30-minute phone consultation with me (or Tania, your choice) on whatever you want to discuss that would support your next step forward, from big picture writing goals, to nitty gritty craft challenges. OR a signed copy of any of my books.
8. Winner from last contest: With tips on how you persevere with your writing.
Winner: Shanna Lewis of Colorado . "I have two favorite tricks… I tell myself that I have to start whatever it is that I'm resistant to and then I have to really try to do it for ten minutes. If, after ten minutes I still don't want to do it, then I give myself permission to stop. The permission to stop is the key. Usually once I get started I get so involved in whatever activity it is that I don't want to stop doing it. It was the getting started that was the problem to begin with, not the finishing part.
"Trick Two also involves giving myself permission. This time I give myself permission to suck at whatever it is that I'm doing. That way I can get rid of the critic and neurotic voice telling me that I can't do whatever it is so why bother trying. Instead I just say "Oh well, this will suck, but I'm going to do it anyway." After I do whatever it is that needs doing then I let the inner critic loose on it so that I can make it less sucky."
Plus a couple of great ideas from:
Lisa Maroski (in Chicago, we think): "I have an accountability group. I promise I will have X pages written by our next meeting. Giving my word to another makes me keep it… Second, green-eyed competition. When I found out that someone was making a TV show that sounded a lot like my book, it lit a fire under my butt that had me writing like time was scarce. I had to get my book out before the TV show aired. My book is out. No sign of the TV show yet."
Jan Marquart of New Mexico: "I don't allow myself to believe in writer's block... If I want to write on my book but can't find words or mental pictures, I pick up my pen and instead of trying to force myself to write on my book I write about the moment by looking out the window. I write about the sky, the weather or the bird sitting on a tree. Then when I feel warmed up I can usually go back to write something on my book…If that doesn't work I give myself time to let ideas brew... My writing process doesn't always happen on my time. I can pass something in the grocery aisle and wham! there it is: the thought I was hoping for this morning... It is crucial not to fall into the false belief that a 'block' means the process is not happening."
Wishing you a Happy and Creative 2008
***Please feel free to forward to others, as long as you forward the newsletter in its entirety. All material is copyright to the author. Do not reproduce article or other sections on websites/blogs or other public spaces without permission of the authors.
© 2008 Sean Murphy / Tania Casselle All rights reserved